So the Eagles draft is in the books and a lot of fans aren’t happen because they don’t think the Eagles took the best player available when they were on the clock on several occasions. I do agree that some of the players may have been slightly over-drafted in terms of the common perception, but the Eagles identified players they wanted and moved around to get them. At 22, their 6 targets were reportedly off the board already, so they moved back to 26, adding a 3rd round pick in the process, and took the next player on their list, Marcus Smith. Smith is the player most fans are mad about because they don’t think he was the 26th best player available, but he was obviously the best player left on the Eagles board. If they wanted either of the cornerbacks, Verrett or Dennard, they would have had their pick at 22, and Roby and safeties Deone Bucannon and Jimmy Ward were still available when they picked at 26, so fans have to take those names out of their heads. I did like Marqise Lee, but with dozens of solid wide receivers and only a handful of solid pass rushers left (really just Jeremiah Attaochu after Smith), its easy to see why Smith was so valuable. Add to that, the Patriots were rumored to be interested in Smith at 29 and the Redskins reportedly traded out of pick 34 when their top choice Smith wasn’t available and you can see that Smith wasn’t really ‘over-drafted’ at all, and it was actually genius that the Eagles could get him and add the 3rd round pick.
Moving on to a look at each of the players the Eagles picked:
Marcus Smith – While Smith doesn’t have quite the same upside of a guy like Barr, he is possibly the most NFL ready 3-4 outside linebacker thanks to his experience as both a LB and a DE. Smith is 6’3″, 250 and can rush the passer (2nd in the nation in sacks last year) and drop back in coverage effectively and could fill a variety of roles for the Eagles defense. Over his college career Smith had a knack for batting passes and for forcing fumbles, both of which are coveted plays on an NFL defense and he even caught a couple 2-point conversions in his career. All said and done, this looks like a great pick that fits need and value.
Jordan Matthews – No one is arguing the Eagles 2nd round pick, as they got a 6’3″, 212 pound wide receiver who runs a 4.46 40 and is the all time leader in receptions and receiving yards in the SEC. Oh and he is related to Jerry Rice. Sure he dropped a few passes in college and isn’t adept at getting of the press just yet, but hey, no one is perfect and Matthews is a hard worker and a student of the game. He will only get better.
Josh Huff – Huff is a bit undersized, was banged up a lot in college and isn’t a burner, but he is a former running back who can make things happen after the catch and can return kicks. Chip Kelly would know him better than anyone, and will know how to use him better than anyone. At worst, Kelly gets the most out of him as a 4th wide receiver and a return man. At best he gets a player similar to Victor Cruz, who finds ways to get open and create big plays.
Jaylen Watkins – I love Matthews, but Watkins is right there with him for my love as a pick, and one I must admit I didn’t think I would like as much pre-draft. Watkins, the brother of 4th overall pick Sammy Watkins, is a big, fast and strong defensive back. Watkins has experience in the slot, on the outside and as a safety, so he brings versatility to the defense that will get him on the field sooner rather than later, and he is a capable press coverage corner. Watkins will play in the sub-packages initially, as a slot corner, backup on the outside and as a reserve safety in some sets.
Taylor Hart – I know, I know, another Duck. It is a bit frustrating but at the same time, Hart is a huge defensive end at 6’6″ 281, played both DE and DT in college, is a clear cut, hard worker and like Smith, has a tendency to force fumbles and bat passes. Hart isn’t just another Kelly player, he is a perfect fit as a DE for the Eagles defense.
Ed Reynolds – The least exciting of the Eagles draft picks, Reynolds isn’t exceptionally fast or strong, but he has solid size, has experience and some ball-hawking and return ability (6 interceptions, 301 yards, 3 touchdowns as a junior), and isn’t a terrible athlete (44′ triple jumper, for the non-track people that’s a big jump). I don’t think Reynolds will ever be a starter, but he is the kind of guy you love as a backup and one you don’t worry about if they have to fill in for a game or two.
Beau Allen – I think Eagles fans are going to love Allen. Allen is a big farm boy who is a massive 6’2″ 333 pounds and benched 225 pounds 30 times, and can squat over 700 pounds. He also has some lower body explosion as evidenced by his 31″ vertical, a crazy number for a man his size. Allen never missed a game in college, and has experience as a 3-4 nose tackle. He doesn’t have much push as a pass rusher, only totaling 8 career sacks, but along with Taylor Hart, he gives the Eagles a couple of good young run-stopping defensive linemen.
All said and done, I like the draft class a lot. The only thing that is a let down to me is that we couldn’t find a way to get any more picks in such a deep draft class. Regardless, the Eagles added a lot of talent to their roster and filled in young players at several spots where they needed to upgrade their depth. Once the Eagles fans can get over where the players were drafted and see them in action I think they will come around.
Rookie Free Agents: The Eagles have signed several rookie free agents. Among them are a handful of backup offensive line men and a kicker who’s best attribute is his hit power (seriously, look up Carey Spear, his nickname is murderleg). One intriguing prospect is a super athletic tight end from Cincinnati, Blake Annen, who ran a 4.41 40 and comes in at 6’4″, 247. Annen wasn’t drafted because he was a one year starter and only caught a total of 15 passes as a senior. Also interesting are productive Toledo running back David Fluellen, LSU reserve receiver Kadron Boone and Flordia utility man Trey Burton and feel good story and talented running back Henry Josey.